Last summer when Wayne Thompson and I where covering the Soul Brothers Drag race, we met Carl Criswell; nicknamed “Boonie.” I was taken back by his attitude and passion for drag racing, so I gave him my business card and asked him if we could get together sometime for a Readers & Their Rides interview to learn more about him and his club. Unfortunately, we never had the chance to hook up, but luckily we ran into each other again at the Cycles n More Bike Show. This time I made sure he didn’t get away and scheduled a time to meet with him for an interview. So, with that behind us, I am honored to introduce you to Mr. Carl “Boonie” Criswell of the Zodiac Motorcycle Club.
CC: Carl, what is your occupation?
Carl: I’m an firefighter and Big Boys Toys builder.
CC: Do you have any hobbies other than motorcycling?
Carl: I can't seem to stop building toys and racing anything with wheels. If it doesn't look good and run, what's the point?
CC: Why do you ride?
Carl: The speed has a tendency to get me motivated to go faster and maintain a high level of respect for doing all things in life the best I can, because your destiny is mainly decided by the things you do and the way you carry yourself! Besides, it also makes a good stress reliever. I am a lot nicer person after a day of riding or racing. At least that's what she says.
CC: How long have you been riding?
Carl: I have been riding motorized bikes since I was ten, but didn't own my first motorcycle until I was 25. So for the last 15 years, I try to ride weekly, year round. Past relationships did not allow two-wheel activities, so I am trying to catch up.
CC: What was your first bike?
Carl: My first real bike was a '74 Honda 750-Four, and yes, it got the full treatment that everything I own gets; cut up and rebuilt.
CC: How many bikes have you owned?
Carl: Nine for now, building number ten in my head. That one has been in there since I was a child, and it is evolving with time. It will be the ultimate pro street/cruiser/race/show bike of its era. And for all you doubters that say it can't be done, you are wrong. It has been done many times over on four wheels, and there are a few on two. I plan on joining those ranks to represent the Midwest.
CC: How many bikes do you currently own?
Carl: Two as of today, but one is for sale to help finance number ten.
CC: Tell us about your 'primary' bike?
Carl: My pride now is my 2001 Suzuki Hayabusa.
CC: I just love the airbrush work and all of the chrome! I want to add Nitrous to my bike as a polishing touch. What do you like most about your Hayabusa.
Carl: It's very reliable and is capable of holding its ground in any situation (road trip, cruise, race or show). I also like it because I built it.
CC: What is your dream bike?
Carl: My vision of number ten is a low long and fast 145” S&S powered hardtail custom. I can't tell you any more because I don't want someone to run with my particular design. That's my next project.
CC: When you get ready to unveil this, let me know, because I want the first picture! So, what is your most memorable riding experience?
Carl: While attending the Prostar World Finals in Gainesville, Florida, I had many compliments on the looks of my bike, and competed in the race. Afterwards, I rode to Daytona and back, and continued the next rounds Sunday morning, only changing the fuel. That’s proof that it can be done.
CC: I love the Prostar circuit. I wish I could have been along for that ride. So what is your least memorable riding experience?
Carl: While riding to Wichita with some friends on my old drag bike, which had a 7” slick, wheelie bars and NOS, we were all stopped by a state trooper who was standing in the middle of the turnpike. He claims we were traveling in excess of 165 mph, but we all know we would never do that! Needless to say, the day got worse. A severe thunderstorm hit, and two of us rode all the way back to Kansas City in the storm (remember the 7” slick) at midnight because the rain would not stop and we refused to let our bikes sit outside a hotel room overnight.
CC: At least you did not have mechanical problems and you made it home safe and sound. To what motorcycle clubs or organizations do you belong?
Carl: I am the current Road Captain of the Zodiac Motorcycle Club of Kansas City, Missouri.
CC: Which motorcycle rallies and events have you attended, and which is your favorite?
Carl: I make every effort to attend the NBR Round Up, Bike Week in South Carolina, Soul Brothers Races, Black Sunday, ProSar and NHRA Division 5 Races, Bikers for Babies, and the Polar Bear Ride, to name a few. I attend as many functions as possible, and I like them all, as long as I can ride. I have a habit of traveling wounded.
CC: Do you attend any of the local bike nights, and if so, do you have a favorite location?
Carl: My favorite bike night isn't really an organized event. Although I go to all of the local bike nights, my heart belongs to the rides we have on Sunday afternoons. A group with very diverse backgrounds meets at 63rd and Prospect around 3-4 p.m. We bench race, then ride, stop for food, entertain the public, get entertained, and so on until the group dwindles down to just a few. On a good day we will log 200 miles and consume many burgers and wings. This group has been meeting for the 15 years I have been there, and is still growing. Some faces have changed, but the regulars are like family. We belong to different clubs or walks of life, but the bikes unite us.
CC: Do you have any tattoos, and if so, which is your favorite?
Carl: I have two tats; one on my chest, and one on my left arm, which are both similar. They are the grim reaper with my club name and the reaper standing guard.
CC: Why the reaper? I am not looking forward to meeting Mr. Reaper anytime soon.
Carl: Because he does not make mistakes. When the man upstairs sends him, he gets the job done.
CC: Do you have a favorite tattoo artist?
Carl: Yes. The Professor at Ink Slingers has a way of seeing what you see, not just his vision or style.
CC: Do you prefer riding in a group or by yourself?
Carl: I enjoy riding in a group, because with one or two others, the level of excitement and safety are greatly increased. We all know what happens when the traffic is clear.
CC: Who are some of your closest riding buddies?
Carl: The Fat Man, Hitman and Big Buck. We go way back.
CC: It sounds like you guys are really close friends and watch out for one another? Just for fun, which of your riding buddies is the best rider
Carl: It's a toss up, but the Hitman will get you in a curve or on the track.
CC: Sounds like the Hitman holds true to his name? Just for fun, which of your riding buddies is the worst rider
Carl: I try not to ride with bad riders, which is why I maintain a spot at the back of the pack. I survey and help out those with issues, when needed. The new Road Captain position is going to be a challenge for me, not being able to see what's going on behind me.
CC: Well, sometimes I guess being the head of the pack will have its advantages. I admire your concern for the rest of your pack and riding buddies. Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Carl: I don't want to sound like anyone’s parent, but there is a time and place for everything. Clowning or racing in traffic is not smart. We do have a local track where you can ride as fast or quick as your talent and budget will carry you. If you want this hobby or way of life to gain more respect and grow, we must use common sense and support each other.
We only live once; make your dreams your reality!
CC: Carl, I'm really glad that we ran into each other again at the Cycles n More Bike Show. You have shown me that people such as yourself can be so involved for the newer generations of riders, and you are truly a positive role model, which we are lacking today! You sound like a great leader, and I believe that’s why your club put you up front of the pack. Thank you taking time away from your busy schedule to do this interview, for riding out to the lake for photo, and for sharing your beliefs with our readers.
Interview and photos by Dave Miller